DES MOINES — Majority GOP legislators forged ahead Tuesday with plans to ease gun restrictions by adopting permit-less “constitutional carry” legislation over objections that the proposed changes would make Iowans less safe.
Members of the Iowa House Public Safety Committee voted 12-8 to approve a bill allowing Iowans to purchase and carry firearms without a permit. If adopted, Iowans buying a gun from a federally licensed dealer still would have to either pass a federal background check or present a permit to carry — but firearms purchased from an unlicensed seller over the internet or at a gun show would no longer be subject to Iowa’s background check or permitting requirements, according to proponents.
Critics charged House Study Bill 254 was a “radical and dangerous” proposal that would threaten public safety by repealing Iowa’s law requiring background checks on handgun sales and Iowa’s law requiring a permit to carry a concealed handgun in public — current standards that have kept Iowa low in gun-violence statistics.
“If more guns make us safer, America would be the safest place in the world,” Temple Hiatt, an Army military police veteran of the Gulf War, told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee considering similar legislation. “I have been a gun owner and in no way did I feel burdened to get a permission slip. Falling back to the minimum federal background checks won’t make us safer. It will remove Iowa-specific laws regarding permitting on private gun sales and will create more unchecked loopholes.”
However, proponents like Richard Rogers, a lobbyist for the Iowa Firearms Coalition, said removing the permit requirement would help people who need a gun for self-defense.
“The history of gun control in the United States is a history of racism, bigotry and fear. Outright bans and ‘may-issue’ schemes were created and used by the powerful to keep the less powerful in their place. This is so even here in Iowa,” said Rogers.
He refuted claims that Senate Study Bill 1232 is a “radical idea,” telling senators that “the principle benefit of this change in law will be for those who suddenly find themselves seriously threatened and want and need a gun now.”
Along with provisions dealing with permitting and background checks, the companion bills would allow some emergency medical responders to carry weapons; allow law enforcement and reserve officers to carry firearms on school grounds regardless of whether they were on duty; bar landlords of government-assisted housing from banning firearms; and create a database of state-approved organizations for training Iowans seeking to carry a handgun.
“This dismantles some of our most-critical public safety infrastructure and that will make it easier for felons, domestic abusers and those prohibited based on mental illness to buy handguns in Iowa,” said Traci Kennedy, a gun owner who testified at the Senate subcommittee.
Scott Jones, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, said Iowa would join 18 states that now allow residents to carry concealed weapons without a permit.
Rep. Steve Holt, R-Denison, told House members that gun sales are up across the country not just because of the COVID-19 pandemic but because “Americans and Iowans believe that politicians are coming after their firearms and their Second Amendment rights and they’re trying to buy their firearms as fast as possible.”
“Law-abiding citizens are not the problem; the Second Amendment is not the problem; and a permit — a little piece of paper — is not going to stop a nut case or a mental deviant or a bad guy from deciding they’re going to shoot something up or kill innocent people,” he said.
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